Sunday, September 4, 2011

Auto Tours - Auto Trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ( For Those who can't hike but enjoy outdoors and nature )

In many cases the most accessible way to tour the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and see the wildlife, beautiful panoramic scenery and the historical buildings is by taking a tour by automobile or van.

The 2 most popular paved roads that crisscross the park - Newfound Gap Road (441) running north and south connecting North Carolina and Tennessee and the Little River Road - Laurel Creek Road (73) which traverse the park east to west both offer stunning views, numerous pull offs and an every changing display of foliage and weather: sunrises, sunsets, fog, mysterious clouds, sunshine and snow.

Available for purchase in the visitor centers is a 1 hour audio cassette tape you can play in your car as you drive Newfound Gap Road which will point out points of interest as well as interviews with people who used to reside in the park before it became a national park.

The most popular "auto tour" area of the Park is the 11 mile Cades Cove Loop motor trail which sees millions of visitors a years. To me you can't say you have visited the Great Smoky Mountains National park if you haven't driven, biked or walked the Cove.

Besides the well know and well travelled roads in the park, there are a few others which will let you get away from the traffic, roll down your windows and drive so slow you can touch a tree limb or watch a deer, squirrel or even bear from the safety and comfort of your car.

These scenic drives in the Great Smoky Mountains national park have Auto Tour Booklets available for sale along the road side and in all of the visitor centers:
  • Cades Cove 11 mile Loop near Townsend Tennessee
  • Roaring Fork near downtown Gatlinburg Tennessee
  • Tremont near Townsend Tennessee
  • Big Cataloochee near Maggie Valley North Carolina
There are also some outstanding tours you can do by car on unimproved (gravel) roads in the Great Smoky Mountains Park.
  • Rich Mountain Road: Starting in Cades Cove ending in Townsend Tennessee
  • Parsons Branch Road: Starting in Cades Cove ending on 129 between Fontana North Carolina and Maryville Tennessee
  • Round Bottom - Straight Fork: Off Big Cove Road near Cherokee North Carolina
  • Cosby TN to Big Creek NC to Cataloochee North Carolina
These tours can take hours and are best done when there is plenty of daylight. Other than the Cosby - Big Creek - Cataloochee unimproved road which is open year round (weather permitting) these road close during the winter.

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